One of my fondest memories of my 16 years on this planet was slurping down a delicious, steaming bowl of udon noodles on the first floor of Incheon International Airport after completing a long flight. I can still taste the savory broth gracing its magnificent presence on my worn taste buds. Although the event is gone, the memory will forever be safely tucked away in my consciousness. This opportunity would not have been possible if my father did not serve in the United States military. From the moment I was born, I have been a military brat, a child of a parent serving in the US Armed Forces. My father has been a Marine my whole life. After being born in Wisconsin, I moved to Okinawa, Japan to Texas to Okinawa, again, and then to the Republic of Korea. After being in the military environment my whole life and living overseas for ten years, I have found an extensive appreciation for the freedoms the United States provides, as well as the opportunities and experiences it provided me with to interact with foreign cultures in Korea and Japan.
One major detail of American culture I realized was more important than I originally thought was the freedoms we are afforded. The amount of people willing and ready to defend our country is staggering and makes me proud to be an American. When I lived in Okinawa in 2015, I remember sirens wailing around Camp Kinser while I was in school, and my class was quickly taken to a safe location. We later found out that this event was in response to one of North Korea’s first missile launches. In late 2017, I was able to visit the North Korean border with South Korea, the Demilitarized Zone, also known as the DMZ, where I saw US troops and North Korean soldiers face to face. These experiences helped me realize the threat that such countries, like North Korea, pose and the cost of sacrifices the United States is willing to make to protect our people and our freedoms. It really does give you a sense of patriotism and appreciation for the operation.
The most important aspect I learned by being a part of a military environment was interacting with the Korean and Japanese populous. Throughout my time living in Okinawa and Korea, I have had a number of multicultural exchanges that have shaped who I am today. In my high school career, I have participated in varsity soccer and cross country. In our meets, we have the opportunity to compete against multiple international schools throughout Korea. Afterwards, both soccer and cross country tournaments led to competitions in other countries, usually Japan. My school also has the Science Technology Engineering and Math Seminars (STEMinars) program that sends students from all over the Far East Department of Defense Education Activity (DoDEA) schools to Tsukuba University, Japan for experiences with trained professionals in STEM careers. This introduced me a number of people that I was able to connect with and learn from! From such experiences, I was able to make friends with Japanese students and Korean students that I still contact on a semi-regular basis! ᕕ( ᐛ )ᕗ All these opportunities to connect with the local communities in Korea and Japan would not have been possible if I was not a part of a military environment.
Although there have been many fantastic opportunities afforded to me, there are also many that I, and many others, were deprived of. One thing that I missed was the opportunity to continue growing my friendships. By moving every 3 years, I met many amazing people, but consequently, I would lose them. It stinks. This constant shuffling desensitizes people, leading to bonds being not as valued as much as before. Although it has not happened to me, personally, a sense of isolation and melancholy has been felt by some people I have known. But that is just it - the people I know. The incredible thing is, we are accustomed to change and that is what drives us and motivates us! Many people are able to share this same experience and bond over it. That is what makes us military brats so incredible - overcoming hardship time and time again to learn and bond!
The purpose of the military is to serve and protect the United States. Military brats are one of the fundamental cultures of the military. Thus, we serve the same purpose, so being robust comes with the job. There are many perks of being a military brat, but there are also sacrifices we take. Although the moving process is tough, we push through and adapt. That is what is valuable - resilience. These experiences of going to more places, eating udon noodles at Incheon International Airport, making many friends, taking those sacrifices, and being proud of it are the memories that will be safely tucked away in my consciousness.